Pride and Glory
Directed by: Gavin O’Connor
Starring: Edward Norton, Colin Farrell, Jon Voight, Noah Emmerich
Rated: R for strong violence, pervasive language and brief drug content.
Parental Notes: This film deserves its rating. The violence is nasty and dark, and while it’s not always graphic on screen, we’re given enough to have vivid images in our minds.
“Pride and Glory” is a dark film, a take on the good cop vs. corrupt cop story we’ve seen so many times. It’s a complex film, one where none of the characters are even close to perfect, including our “good cop.” It’s not a terribly new story, apart from a few details, but it’s familiar like the scorch on an inattentive relative’s grilled hamburgers or the tannins in one’s favorite red wine. If that’s what you like, then you like; if it bugs you, then you hate it.
The film starts, as many good cop movies do, with a terrible crime. In this case, it’s a shootout which leaves several hoods and four police officers dead. The officers were all under the command of Francis “Franny” Tierny, Jr. (Noah Emmerich) and his brother-in-law, Jimmy Egan (Colin Farrell). Francis Tierny, Sr. (Jon Voight) is the police chief, and when he forms the task force to investigate the incident, he calls another of his sons, Ray Tierny (Edward Norton), from behind his desk in missing persons. Ray used to work the streets, but something bad happened a while back and he’s been hiding in the station. He lets his father push him into joining the task force, and winds up uncovering a complex web of corruption which threatens his family’s legacy in the precinct.
Norton is in fine form here, giving us a man haunted by his past and determined not to make the same mistakes again without making the portrayal hackneyed or cliche. Ray is a gifted investigator, which means he has sympathy and empathy in spades — both potential weaknesses in a family of hard-nosed cops serving on the hard streets of New York.
His father is your classic hard-drinking police chief who cares more about protecting his men than sticking to all the little rules in the book. It’s not a particularly challenging role, but Voight doesn’t sleepwalk through it. Every nuance is spot-on. Franny is a nice guy, but overwhelmed by his wife’s terminal illness and perhaps resting a little too hard on his past hard work, and Emmerich makes him sympathetic without minimizing his failures.
Then there’s Jimmy Egan. He’s married to Ray and Franny’s sister, and is not a well man. Farrell has a knack for playing nasty pieces of work, and he’s dialed up to eleven here. Jimmy may be able to be a loving father and sweet family man when he’s at home, but put him on the streets and he will hold a hot iron to a baby’s face without blinking if he thinks it will get him what he wants faster than just beating his source of information with his fists. Farrell makes both sides of the man believable, which makes him all the more creepy.
This is a well-worn set of plot pathways, but the excellent cast and top-notch portrayals make it worthwhile, particularly if the thought of yet another family-members-who-are-cops-together story doesn’t make you roll your eyes. This is an old and familiar song, but sung well.